People who delude themselves into thinking smoking poses a minimal risk because of their genetic makeup overlook numerous flaws in their logic.
For one thing, a certain number of people who die from smoking each year die from fires caused by cigarettes. So unless they're genetic makeup has somehow rendered them fireproof this concept is totally overlooked. Another is cigarette smokers have four times as many auto accidents as non-smokers. One of the reasons is simply the handling of the cigarettes while driving. Another factor is the slower reflexes exhibited in smokers due to the large levels of carbon monoxide ingested from cigarettes. So unless your genetic makeup has left you impervious to injury, this is another issue being totally ignored.
Then there are injuries that may be sustained that may not be the fault of the smoker at all-injuries that may require some sort of emergency surgery. Or diseases that have nothing to do with smoking but also require some sort of surgical intervention. Now the smoker has to contend with the increase in postoperative complications caused by smoking. Their wonderfully endowed long-lived ancestors may never have been exposed to some of these lifestyle risks responsble for certain injuries or germs responsible for certain diseases.
When I was first doing smoking programs I worked with a doctor who was viewed by most of his colleagues as an anti-smoking fanatic. He was chief of thoracic surgery at a major veterans hospital in the Chicago area. He related a story to me once about a young medical intern who came across a patient who was 87 years old and in a terminal state dying from lung cancer. But this man had been a two to three pack a day smoker for over 60 years. The intern called in my doctor friend out from the hallway and told him to come see this patient. Here was a man who had smoked extremely heavily and yet was alive at the age of 87. The intern though this man served as a good case in point of how the fanatical doctor was making too big a deal of the risks of smoking.
Well my fanatical colleague walked up to the patient, who was in an oxygen mask and had a very difficult time talking. Without looking at the patients chart he introduced himself and asked the patient two simple questions in front of the excited intern. First he said, "How old was you father when he died." The patient slowly removed his mask, and in a weak and strained voice eeked out, "104 year old." The doctor could have quit there but he proceeded to ask, "How old was your mother when she died." Again, removing the mask he weakly said, "in her late nineties."
The doctor looked at the chart for a few more seconds, nodded to the man and wished him luck, turned around and smiled at the intern and left the room. Here the over enthusiastic intern thought he had a good example of the over exaggerated risks of smoking. Instead he was seeing a man, dying of lung cancer at the age of 87 who probably had a genetic predisposition to have lived longer than another decade, and would likely have been a lot healthier at the tail end of his life than this pulmonary crippled individual he was now showcasing.
Most of us are not blessed with the genetics to live into their hundreds. We need to live life right to achieve a maximum life span. But we are talking more than just longevity. Quality of life also has to be weighed into the equation and smoking interferes with that quality in many negative ways.
Just know trying to play the odds of smoking safely is basically gambling with your life. Smoking is a game of Russian roulette with a very loaded pistol. To minimize the risk of smoking problems which can be devastating to your health and threatening your very life always know the way to stay smoke free is to never take another puff!
Copyright 2002. Joel Spitzer
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